His name was Jax.
Jax came into our lives 13 years ago. He slept in bed with me and my wife, save for “sex nights” when we kicked him out to sleep in the hallway. Sadly, he’d only have to wait five to 10 minutes before he’d be right back up again.
He loved belly rubs, cheese, people food, treats, walks, cheese, sleeping on top of his people, barking at smoke detectors, waiting until I sat down and got comfortable before letting me know he needed to go outside, being the best boy, and cheese.
Jax left us yesterday morning.
A few months ago, I took him to the vet to figure out why he’d stopped sleeping at night. Medications were prescribed, but they didn’t work for long. We eventually found the cause: He had dementia. One of my best friends was in a perpetual state of confusion and anxiety.
I eventually made the call to a service that does in-home euthanasia. I could not bear the thought of being in a veterinarian’s office, on a cold, steel table. I wanted him home.
I spent the entirety of his final day working from my couch, with Jax curled up beside me. In the morning, I took him for his last walk. We’d done this same loop tens of thousands of times over the last 13 years. He didn’t know that this was his last walk. He didn’t know this would be the last thing he sniffed or peed on.
When the veterinarian showed up, she gave Jax treats, cookies and chocolate. If you’re thinking, “Dogs aren’t supposed to have chocolate,” you are not alone. I thought the same thing, even in these last moments.
The vet injected the first shot — a sedative — and he stood up from the jolting pinch, crowding closer to me and away from the doctor. Within a few seconds, his eyes began to droop. His legs gave way and he collapsed into the bed.
I lay down on the floor behind him and curled my arm around him. He started snoring. Loudly snoring. We all laughed. In Jax’s last few minutes, he was still making us smile and laugh. What a jerk move.
The vet produced the next syringe from her pack and prepared to administer the lethal dose. My wife and I sat there, staring at him, listening to his breaths coming at longer intervals. When he took his final breath, I clutched him so hard that I thought he would pop in my arms.
That afternoon, I took my first walk alone. I was surprised at the speed at which I actually reached the end of my street without needing to stop every 12 seconds. I walked a mile and a half in the time it would have normally taken Jax and me to walk two city blocks.
I walked alone, and I did not like it.
The void in our bed last night was undeniable, as my wife and I patted the spot where Jax would normally plop himself down. There should probably be a scientific study on how a 27-pound dog could consume the space of an entire king-size mattress, but he managed to do it.
Today, I will go through the motions. I will probably break into old habits that I’ve had for the last 13 years, like when I ate crackers last night and broke off a small piece for Jax. I reached for his water bowl this morning before realizing it was no longer there. I will probably leave a little bit of food on my dinner plate, so he can finish it for me.
I know these things will happen. I know this because I’ll be fine one minute, and fighting back tears the next. These are called griefbursts, and I’ve had about 50 of them in the last 12 hours.
I will work today, and I will push through the griefbursts, because I have to. I explained this morning, to our youngest, that staying out of school today wasn’t an option. “It’s OK to be sad,” I told her. “But that doesn’t change the fact that the world is still spinning, and we have things to do that need doing.”
When she headed out to the bus stop, I looked at my wife. “It’s hard to tell your kids something that you don’t believe yourself,” I said.
She looked up at me from the couch, her right hand on Jax’s sweater. “I know,” she said softly.
Saying Goodbye To the Best Damn Dog, Ever
When your best friend dies, there’s nothing to prepare you for it
His name was Jax.